When Ruling Elders are ordained they promise that they will “share in government and discipline, serving in councils of the church, and in your ministry will you try to show the love and justice of Jesus Christ?” (W-4.0404i(1)). Teaching elders answer a very similar question (W-4.0404i(3)) that asks them to be “active” rather than “share in” governance denoting a difference in our expectation that all pastors (as members of the presbytery) will participate in some form of governance beyond the local session while not all ruling elders may be called to so. With that said, one of the core principals of our polity that leadership is shared by ruling and teaching elders. Indeed, while sessions are usually made up of one teaching elder and about a dozen ruling elders (see my previous article about how the pastor IS a member of the session) the leadership of most groups at the presbytery, synod, and General Assembly level are made up of half of each. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) cannot function without the gifts and talents of those ruling elders who say “I will with God’s help” when the Nominating Committee calls and asks them to serve! The Nominating Committee is beginning their work to discern who is being called to serve for the next class of committee members and leaders that will be elected at the presbytery meeting in November. If you are a ruling or teaching elder, I encourage you to prayerfully consider how you have lived out your ordination vow to participate in the governance of the church and then let the Nominating Committee know how you are feeling called! I would also like to point out that, thanks to a recent change to the bylaws, some presbytery committees can now have members who are not ordained at all which opens the door for some people to serve who previously were excluded!
Serving on a presbytery committee is not the only way to fulfill our ordination vows. When the General Assembly met this summer it called for the formation of several temporary groups (commissions, taskforces, teams, and special committees) that will help the denomination implement certain actions like the merger of the Office of the General Assembly and the Presbyterian Mission Agency or study certain issues like race and writing a new confession. One of those groups is a Task Force to study the role of Ruling Elders as our past decisions that opened the door to having Commissioned Pastors and New Worshipping Communities has changed how we think about leadership in the church. The members of those groups are appointed by the Co-Moderators of the General Assembly in consultation with the General Assembly Nominating Committee. Each group is required to include a diverse representation of the church in regards to ordination, gender, and geography. The application portal to volunteer for one of these groups will open at the end of August but you can read more about the work of each now by clicking on the links below so that you’re ready to volunteer when the time comes! The groups to be appointed are:
Commission to unify the Office of The General Assembly and the Presbyterian Mission Agency
Do you have polity questions for the Stated Clerk? Email him! Your question may help educate other clerks in a future Clerk’s Corner